Saturday, December 25, 2010

Leading by example- Ark Hotel Construction shows How Prefabrication can Change the Face of Construction Industry

This video titled "Ark Hotel Construction time lapse building 15 storeys in 2 days" surfaced only last month on the internet and it was seen more than 3.8 million times on Youtube alone.

And there is a reason for that. It took just six days to build the Ark Hotel in Changsha, China. According to the video, no stationary cranes were used in construction and there wasn't single injury among the site's workers.

The 15-story sustainable hotel already had its foundation but using pre-fabricated columns and modules as well as modern construction techniques, construction workers took just 46 hours to finish the main structural components and another 90 hours to finish the building enclosure.

Construction Details:

Level 9 Earthquake Resistance: diagonal bracing structure, light weight, steel construction, passed level 9 earthquake resistance testing

6x Less Material: even though the construction materials are much lighter(250kg/m2) than the traditional materials(over 1500kg/m2), the floors and walls are solid with surefootedness, airtight and sound-proofing

5x Energy Efficient: 150mm thermal insulation for walls and roofs, triple glazed plastic windows, external solar shading, heat insulation, fresh air heat recovery, LED lighting, yearly HAVC A/C energy consumption equivalent to 7 liters oil.

20x Purification: after 3 levels of purification, the purification efficiency for fresh air reaches 95%-99.9%; air exchanged 1-2.5 times per hour, and indoor air is 20x cleaner than out door air

1% Construction Waste: all components are factory made, construction waste, mainly package materials, result from on site set-up only and amount to 1% of the total weight of the building


If we believe the sources on the internet, this hotel construction caused only 1% material waste as compared to the building industry average of 10% for in-place steel and concrete construction. Clearly, this well planned, coordinated and executed project sets a perfect example for lean construction community and for the construction industry as a whole to understand the value of eliminating waste from the projects.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Visit to Toyota Texas Plant in San Antonio Texas and Lessons Learned for Construction

On November 19th, 2010, I got a chance to visit Toyota Texas Plant. It was truly a great experience. One because it was a Truck Manufacturing Plant and second because I got to see Toyota Production System (TPS) in action. Toyota is where the concept of 'lean' was first born in 1930's. This visit was very significant for me as I was reading about lean in manufacturing throughout my masters at Texas A&M and this was a time to see how things actually get done at Toyota plants.

We were very well received by the plant management at the Visitors' Center and taken to the assembly lines later after a short presentation on Toyota Texas and TPS. This plant started manufacturing trucks (thats what Texans like the most) called "Tundra" and "Tacoma" in year 2006. Both trucks are manufactured on the same assembly line with the help of automatic changing dies (that typically take 5 min on avg) and about 400 robots. The plant works in 2 shifts and produce around 860 vehicles every day.

I got to see the Toyota truck production first hand and as I mentioned earlier it was amazing. The tour guide was a very kind lady who knew the in and out of the plant and showed us around with every possible detail she could in 45 min duration. However, I couldn't stop my mind by comparing lean in manufacturing and lean in construction throughout those 45 minutes.

One very interesting thought revolving in my mind was "how much revenue Toyota is making every day by selling the trucks manufactured on this plant?" After a few searches on Google, I was able to find out that Tundra costs around $24,000 and Tacoma around $20,000. The simple math tells us that on an average Toyota Texas plant is producing trucks worth $19,000,000 every day (assuming equal number of both models). In contrast a $19,000,000 construction project may take anywhere between 1 to 2 years. Obviously, it could be argued that the upfront plant construction costs, technologies used and number of people working in the Toyota plant are way more than what is done on a construction site. However, we can learn a lot from manufacturing, the difference is too big to compare and the concept of reducing the time and cost with improved quality can be taken to a whole new level once this difference is apparent to everybody on the construction team.

In my opinion every team member from a construction project should visit a manufacturing plant once with an aim in mind to learn from the means and methods used there. It may not be possible for everybody to visit the Toyota Plant but a good manufacturing plant itself will be a great source of learning and motivation.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dennis Sowards on Lean Construction

Highlights: Lean construction in home building, concepts of "value" in Lean construction thinking, specific examples of "waste" and "value" in construction industry.

New Construction Strategies with Ted Garrison

Dennis Sowards has over 25 years of senior level experience with a record of achievement in Continuous Improvement, Total Quality Management, Industrial Engineering, and Management Consulting. His strengths include proven leadership and technical analysis in problem solving and group facilitation and the ability to function effectively in a rapidly changing technological and organizational environment.

Listen by clicking on play button.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

BIM and Lean - A Wave of Change in the Industry Worldwide

The rise of BIM, Lean and IPD in construction industry during last 2-3 years shows that industry is desperately changing its work practices in these tough economic times. My belief that the tough economy attracted industry's focus towards productivity improvement grew stronger and stronger over last couple of years and especially after seeing the wave of change in the capital asset management practices in public sector. Major government institutions such as General Administration Services (GSA), US Coast Guard, and public works in Wisconsin, Texas, Finland and Denmark made BIM compulsory over the course of last 3-4 years. UK government is also talking about making BIM compulsory for all public projects according to this article - "The use of force: Building information modelling" on

If you are looking for a similar pattern in Lean Construction growth than look at London Heathrow Terminal 5 Project and Sutter Health Projects in California. Both are multi billion dollar construction programs and brilliant examples of Lean Construction applications. BIM already took off three years ago after decades of application in multi billion dollar projects and now next in line are Lean Construction and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). Instead of changing the softwares and tools (such as BIM) alone it would be a change in the operating system (Lean and IPD Systems) of the industry.

The statement that government regulations and owner demand drive the innovations might sound like a cliché but it is relevant for BIM, Lean and IPD in the present times.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Greg Howell on Lean Construction

New Construction Strategies with Ted Garrison

Greg talks about lean construction principles and its real time applications in the industry. He also talks about the critical role lean construction can play in today's economy.

Listen by clicking on play button.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) Contract and Legal Concerns

Stephen A. Hilger discussed the legal merits of Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) contract in ENR article "The Legal Worries Raised by IPD." His major concerns involve:

1. Design and Financial Risk
2. Loss of the Spearin Doctrine
3. Sharing in Means and Methods
4. Losing the Economic Loss Doctrine
5. "Fluff" Language
6. Third Party Design Liabilities
7. IPD Team Members Can't be Sued and
8. Impact on Indemnity Clauses

Greg Howell on Last Planner System

New Construction Strategies with Ted Garrison
Gregory A. Howell is co-founder and managing director of the Lean Construction Institute (LCI), a non-profit organization devoted to production management research in design and construction. Howell brings 35 years of construction industry project management, consulting and university-level teaching experience to LCI.

Listen by clicking on play button.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Seamless Collaboration is Becoming Inexpensive: Opensource BIMserver v 1.0 Release

A group of open-source programmers and researches involved in architectural CAD and building information modeling (BIM) tools have developed a working tool called BIMserver. Known as the BIMserver Project from TNO and the University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands, the group’s efforts propose to radically alter the landscape for computerized applications in the AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) industries.

After three revisions of open source BIMserver, version 1.0 is now available for download.
Read more about opensource BIMserver here -

Thursday, August 12, 2010

AGC, Lean Project Delivery and Last Planner System

AGC recently released the white paper "Integrated Project Delivery for Public and Private Owners." Lean Project Delivery is mentioned as a related industry trend. Following is the excerpt from the white paper:

"Lean Project Delivery: Another term often used to refer to a form of Integrated Project Delivery is Lean Project Delivery System ™ (LPDS), a term developed by the Lean Construction Institute (LCI). Many of the principles attributed to Lean Project Delivery are similar to those attributed to IPD. In fact, in this era of evolving terminology, many refer to IPD as ―Lean Project Delivery‖ where the application of ―lean thinking‖ and lean principles are applied throughout the project.Followers of IPD treat lean principles along with the resulting efficiencies and elimination of waste as givens. Followers of lean treat collaboration and the use of technologies as givens. In the end, lean and IPD are both striving for the same ultimate outcome, just two different paths to get to the same place: to a project that has been optimized to maximize the value. Whether the project is optimized by applying lean principles first, then IPD principles, or by applying IPD principles, then lean, does not matter. Early adopters of both have shown that the application of both lean and IPD principles is natural and will lead to more successful outcomes.The ideal application of lean begins during the design with the value stream and project schedule mapped by the team. Production of documents proceeds based on the commitments each party makes to the team. This process develops a sense of camaraderie amongst the team that should carry through the construction phase of the project. During construction, the project is scheduled throughout as a team from the milestones developed during the pre-construction phase. Each ―pull-planning session‖ results in a more detailed schedule that clearly and accurately shows all of the activities that must occur prior to or concurrently with the next activity.The key to the increased efficiency of lean is the measurement of adherence to the project schedule. Each party reports on its ability to meet the schedule commitments made the previous week. If commitments are not met, constraints are identified and removed by the team. The power of peer pressure, built on a foundation of mutual respect and understanding over the course of the project is a powerful motivating force for team members to meet commitments. Each party is incented to be the project leader rather than the project laggard in an effort to move the project forward towards successful completion as defined by the value stream."

AGC clearly mentioned the importance of commitments and collaboration resulting from "pull scheduling" and commitment planning (weekly work plans in Last Planner). In other words use of Last Planner System is highlighted as a industry trend enabling integration. I particularly pointed out Last Planner concept mention at AGC's white paper, because I wanted to point out the increasing influence of lean philosophy in the construction industry. Construction industry is talking more and more about lean construction. Leading organizations such as CURT, AGC and magazines such as ENR wrote about lean construction from last couple of years now, apart from International Group of Lean Construction (IGLC), European Group of Lean Construction, and Lean Construction Institute (LCI).

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Are we Moving into a World of Collaboration?

Howard Rheingold talks about the coming world of collaboration, participatory media and collective action -- and how Wikipedia is really an outgrowth of our natural human instinct to work as a group.

Interestingly Howard Rheingold gave the examples of Toyota, Google, Wikipedia, Amazon and Ebay - companies that are enriching others to enrich temselves. By doing lean construction and integrating the whole project team into one, and training them, companies will enrich themselves in this new world of collaboration.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Develop the Future and Past Positive Time Perspectives in Your Project Team Members by using Last Planner System

The psychological framework on which Last Planner System is designed could be explained by looking at the methods Phil Zimbardo and John Boyd recommended in their book "The Time Paradox." People having Future perspective are reported to be having higher success rates in their lives as compared to extremely present oriented individuals.

Finishing the project on time is very critical for both the client and project team in the construction industry. On schedule project delivery and future and past positive orientated people can make a project successful on all dimensions (time,quality,cost,safety etc.).
Last Planner System is a tool that makes project team future oriented by embedding reverse phase scheduling, 6-weeks look ahead and weekly work plans in its planning process. This exercises orient the whole team to future and as Zimbardo and Boyd write in the book, project participants' attitudes towards time can be changed, Last Planner can change the time perspectives in the project team.
"The Time Paradox" also explains that having past positive time perspective, meaning having positive memories of past and learning from past mistakes, is also necessary for success and it is also practiced during Last Planner System planning process. The percentage plan complete (PPC) and reasons charting develop a past positive time perspective in project participants.
Both (future and past positive) time perspectives are attributes of successful people and hence by implementing Last Planner, we can develop successful people in the organization. Who will deliver a successful project.
Repeatedly it is pointed out that benefits from Last Planner implementation can not always be quantified. But qualitative benefits could be explained to some extend by using psychological framework described in this book.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Target Value Design and Honda's "Kick Out the Ladder" Philosophy

Lean construction community sees target value design as a value generation tool. That could be useful to produce value for the client and reduce wasteful outcomes. However, target value design is not seen as a convenient tool and blamed to be hindering creativity and innovation in design. Honda Motor's "Kick Out the Ladder" philosophy inspires to "do the impossible" and thus inspires to achieve seemingly impossible results. This video produced by Honda illustrates this philosophy and employees' thoughts about achieving the desired outcomes successfully.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Importance of Collaboration in Construction Industry and Tim Brown's Idea on "Thinking Big"

Tim Brown says the design profession is preoccupied with creating nifty, fashionable objects -- even as pressing questions like clean water access show it has a bigger role to play. He calls for a shift to local, collaborative, participatory "design thinking."

Lean Project Delivery System (LPDS) /Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) calls for collaboration from all project stakeholder -owners, architects,engineers,general contractors, subcontractors,suppliers ......... Tim Bron's idea on "Thinking Big" calls for the same in every design.

Tim Brown's generic idea about importance of participation in design (product design or process design or service design or .... any other design) spells out clearly that greater participation brings better products and same is true for collaboration in construction. Collaboration during design and delivery of any construction project brings new ideas on table and discussions among participants makes them more open about their approach to solve any problem. People who are practicing collaboration have reported many successful cases and number is increasing exponentially. For more collaboration case studies visit this blog

First Run Studies of "Last Planner System" and Tim Brown on "powerful relationship between creative thinking and play"

At the 2008 Serious Play conference, designer Tim Brown talks about the powerful relationship between creative thinking and play -- with many examples you can try at home (and one that maybe you shouldn't).

First run studies (as lean construction defines) are "used to redesign critical assignments, part of continuous improvement effort; and include productivity studies and review work methods by redesigning and streamlining the different functions involved. The studies commonly use video files, photos, or graphics to show the process or illustrate the work instruction. The first run of a selected craft operation should be examined in detail, bringing ideas and suggestions to explore alternative ways of doing the work."

Tim talks in this video about the importance of role play and creativity. Same concept is true for 'first run studies.' The first run of the craft operation or design done in a playful manner may create innovative solutions.

Lean community, by being more playful in each and every activity (implementation and practice of lean techniques in construction) can actually bring the change in traditional project management practices and help construction industry reduce waste and increase value on projects.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Diffusion of Innovation and a Beautiful Piece of Art

It has been argued since long that diffusion of innovation takes time and typically follows a curve as shown below.

Same is the case with BIM at the present times. Experts employ different tactics to make transition more smooth and make people more conformable with the new ways of doing things or new thinking for instance (ex. lean management in construction). They share stories, create games and do all sorts of things to make learning and transition, from traditional practices to new, more fun and easier for early adopters.
Making something fun is a work of art and it requires creativity. So this makes one point clear that managers have to be artists at some point of time.
I came across this wonderful piece of art, a story, by James salmon that clearly identifies and highlights the importance of BIM and common standards for delivering a BIM to the owner - a BIM that owner can use for facility management. The story is so compelling that I was lured to share it with you.
The story of "Katy's Birthday"
Katy is Daddy's little princess and she wanted a Castle for her birthday. Daddy told her, "Honey, you cannot have a real Castle," and she cried. So Daddy rented an inflatable Castle, which was better than nothing and Katy was still upset. So Mommy invited Katy's friends to bring their wooden toy blocks to the party and build her a real Castle.
Johnny brought BIM blocks by Revit, Sally brought Bentley BIM blocks, little Susie brought BIM blocks produced by Tekla, and half a dozen other children brought special BIM blocks built with their favorite software application. The children built a beautiful Castle and Katy loved it.
As the party was winding down Johnny's Mom said, "Grab your blocks Johnny, and let's go." Johnny ran to the table and began grabbing his blocks, causing Katy's Castle to collapse! Katy began to cry, upset at the sight of the collapsed Castle. The parents gathered in the corner whispering, and the decision was made to leave all the blocks with Katy.
All the blocks were placed in a single box, Revit Blocks, Bentley Blocks, Tekla Blocks and half a dozen other brightly colored BIM blocks. Smiling, Johnny handed Katy the box, saying, "Here's your Castle Katy!" Katy stared sourly at the box and mumbled. "Thanks" in a very ungrateful tone of voice.
Katy retreated to her room and sat staring at the box of blocks, trying to remember how the beautiful Castle fit together, but she was unable to rebuild it by herself. Her departed friends were the only ones who knew the secret of how the Revit, Bentley and Tekla blocks fit together. Almost none of her friends knew how the special notches in the remaining half dozen blocks fit together. Katy could never rebuild the Castle.
Owners face Katy's dilemma at the end of every project. They are handed a "box" of BIM blocks that don't fit together and the owner has now idea how to put the Castle together again. Of course, those are the sophisticated owners who know enough to demand BIM in the first place. Most owners allow the Castle builders to walk away with the BIM blocks and are left with nothing.
Ultimately, owners need As-BUILT-BIM with flexible mechanisms for managing the vast amount of information contained therein, connecting that information to and leveraging it over the Web and treating the information like the valuable digital asset it is. New entrepreneurial business processes will emerge as owners and others leverage these new digital assets to add value to the underlying business purposes the facilities / infrastructure were constructed to fulfill. When owners learn to leverage these new digital assets real demand for true As-BUILT-BIM will skyrocket.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A conceptual BIM of a church building

Built this model last semester as a practice of bidding a church project.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Last Planner® System as a problem solving framework

Last Planner® System (LP®S) reduces uncertainty and brings stability. However, when we put LP S in a problem solving framework we realize that the core of LP®S is based on two problem solving techniques: (1) Root Cause Analysis and (2) GROW model (Goal-Reality-Obstacle/Option-Way forward).

During the LP®S use-
  • We set milestones for an activity - We set goal (G)
  • We do the reality (R) check during the brainstorming sessions and look ahead planning
  • We look for obstacles (O) i.e. constraints analysis and find options (O) to deal with the constraints
  • We go ahead and execute the plan that’s our way forward (W)
  • Next we ask "why" five times which is a popular root cause analysis technique

LP®S planning protocol can be explained using these two problem solving techniques and they encompass George Pólya's method in "How to solve it?”
Pólya suggests the following steps when solving a mathematical problem:

1. First, understand the problem.
2. After understanding, make a plan.
3. Carry out the plan.
4. Look back on your work.
5. Analyze, how could it be better?

There is a scope of future research in applying different problem solving techniques and models to the problem of unpredictability of production plans and testing if other approach gives better results.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Why Last Planner® System and Building Information Modeling First?

I will begin with discussing the history of lean thinking and then discuss the most compelling and promising tools enabling lean thinking.
The very concept of lean construction originates from Taichi Ohno's innovative management philosophy - Toyota Production System (TPS). Precisely, the same Toyota Production System is known as "Lean" in western world.
Ohno states in his book - Toyota Production System- Beyond Large Scale Production - the two most important building blocks of TPS are Just-In-Time (JIT) and Total Quality Management (TQM).
JIT in a layman's words is an approach with the objective of producing the right part in the right place at the right time. And TQM is a management philosophy that seeks to integrate all organizational functions (marketing, finance, design, engineering, and production, customer service, etc.) to focus on meeting customer needs and other organizational objectives.
Last Planner® System (LP®S) of production control is a tool based on JIT philosophy. Frequently applied by lean constructors in planning process and more precisely in scheduling process. LP®S encompasses the principles of JIT and utilizes the concept of Kanban too. LP®S makes plans more reliable and it is a building block of lean philosophy into construction just like JIT in TPS.
Second building block of TPS is total quality management (TQM) that is concerned with quality management, as the name indicates and for doing so its focus is on value creation. Repeat work is a big waste in Ohno's book that we all agree. Rebuilding a wall wrong built or redoing the MEP tasks because of defective drawings and so conflicts is certainly waste and poor quality management. Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a technology that enables integration and visualization of the facility in virtual world. Contractors use BIM to detect conflicts and Architects use it to communicate their design rationale to all the stakeholders.
Lean is a philosophy but you need methodologies and tools to make lean a reality. Last Planner® System and Building Information Modeling are serving the purpose. Despite several cultural, training, educational, leadership, contractual and legal barriers these innovations are diffusing in the construction industry.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Lean Construction for successful project management

Recently I came across this article by Dennis Sowards "BIM and LPS improve project management". Dennis explained LPS-Last Planner System and Building Information Modeling (BIM) fairly well.

However, in my opinion there is no point in asking the question "Should we choose BIM over Lean or Lean over BIM?" As Dennis explains in the article that before asking this question "you need to consider what each process offers before choosing one over the other", I would say: lean is a management philosophy and BIM is a technology for effective management of project information. In other words lean is a way of management and BIM is a tool for management.

Lean construction is based on a simple principle "reduce waste and increase value." To reduce waste (of time, material, labor etc.) a number of initiatives have been taken, for example Last Planner System (LPS) of production control, Value Stream Mapping (VSM), Target Value Design (TVD) etc.

If we closely look at these tools, techniques and methods developed over last two decades the sole aim of these tools is to reduce waste and increase value of a project delivery. This goal translates into the goal of continuous improvement.

At this point this question can be raised "Where BIM comes into picture when we talk about lean construction?" As I said the sole aim of lean construction is continuous improvement, BIM is a tool that brings improvement to the process of project delivery- and thus continuous improvement.

Traditionally design information is shared using 2D drawings. The waste embedded in the process include: change orders, poor information flow, rework etc. BIM does not eliminate this waste entirely but it reduces the waste and so BIM enables lean.

LPS is a tool used for planning purposes, with a goal of making plans more reliable. Making plans more reliable is very important if we look at the waste generated due to broken promises. On the other hand LPS enables integrated project delivery, because "last planners" (foremen/supervisors), GCs, architects, engineers, and trade partners collaborate to make plans more reliable using LPS. Collaboration and integration is the essential condition for the use of LPS.

In conclusion lean construction philosophy and building information modeling technology both are essential to emerging building industry which is facing a downturn due to financial crisis and which is more conscious about sustainable and green construction than it was in the past.